Sanity in the Time of COVID: Daily Routines That Keep Me Productive and Focused

I think we can all agree that the COVID pandemic hasn’t been fun. As much as I love going out to restaurants and seeing friends, one of the biggest impacts to my mental and physical health was when my gym shut down. My routine was consistent and crafted to provide the energy and release I needed to be productive, focused, and balanced.

Soon after the gyms shutting down, I slide into an unstructured daily schedule and would go days without being active. While I was still an effective worker, I no longer had a sense of work-life balance, and would often find myself starting work before sunrise and ending well past sunset.

With the help of my partner, we realized that the best way to stay sane was to build a weekly schedule with a mixture of routines and “special” events to look forward to. Now, outlined on a magnetic whiteboard on our fridge, we have our workouts, movie nights, meal plans, and D&D sessions all mapped out, giving a sense of structure to our lockdown situation.

Most important to this new structure are the daily micro yoga/workout sessions that provide stress relief, energy boosts, and help prevent home office injuries and pains due to poor ergonomics and overworking. These micro sessions are in addition to my regular workouts and were implemented as short breaks throughout the day. Think of it as a more active Pomodoro Technique.

Morning: Magic Ten Energy Boost

When not in lockdown, you can often find me practicing yoga at Luna Yoga in Montréal. It is through this studio and our friend/teacher Francesca Knowles that we learned of the Jivamukti Magic Ten: a set of ten simple yoga moves that can be done in about ten minutes. Perfect for a morning energy boost and stretch. It’s a moving meditation that helps me set my intention and focus for the day.

As seen in a video below, the series of motions includes:

  1. Downward Dog
  2. Forward Fold
  3. Squat
  4. Teepee Twist
  5. Seated Twist
  6. Reverse Table Top
  7. Handstand
  8. Standing Chest Opener
  9. Standing Side Bends
  10. Standing Spinal Roll

Afternoon: 7 Minute Desk Detox

Fitness apps are all the rage right now and I have been very impressed with the Nike Training Club app, especially the fact that it’s free. While there are many fun and intense routines, the most notable (IMHO) is the 7-minute Total-Body Desk Detox workout. This short workout (or Pomodoro break?) is great for full-body flexibility, hip mobility, posture, and shoulder mobility, and provides everything that’s needed for mind-body balance during a midday interlude. The workout comprises of seven one-minute exercises that include shoulder and chest openers, reverse lunges, and squats.

While the actual exercise routine video is only available through the NTC app, here’s a demo from YouTube:

Night: Read!

While I’ve always loved books, last year I set myself a goal of reading every night before bed as a relaxation method to wind my brain down after a busy day. This was especially important for my mental health, as I was in the final stages of my PhD and burning myself out with full-time work during the day and full-time thesis writing at night.

I ended up setting my personal record of reading 34 books in one year. Moreover, I discovered that I fell asleep almost instantly after closing my book for the night. No more tossing and turning trying to fall asleep while my mind wanders and comes up with new ideas to ponder. I finally had an effective trick.

Part of making this effort successful were the tools I used to make reading and consuming books simple: my Kobo Aura H2O connected to the Libby app linked to the Montréal library. This allows me to check-out ebooks on the fly to keep feeding my (healthy) habit.

I’ve been on a sci-fi kick this year and my plan is to read as many Hugo and Nebula award winning books as possible.


Nicholas Nadeau, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Nicholas Nadeau, Ph.D., P.Eng.

Nicholas Nadeau is the CTO at Halodi Robotics, leading their mission of bringing safe and capable humanoid robots to everyone.